Model Rocket Design and Construction 3rd Edition review

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Well-Known Member
Jan 17, 2009
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I just finish reading Tim Van Milligan's Model Rocket Design and Construction 3rd Edition

The Good News
Over all a very good book, I learned several things, and came to understand a few things better. Some of the things I took away included different ways of engine retention, info on rotating parachutes, dynamic stability, and many other things.

I really enjoyed the dynamic stability and aerodynamics discussions, but being an Aero Engineer I got into that pretty much.

Minor flaws
A few minor typos, extra words etc mostly early in the book no big deal
Chapter 15 on multi stage had a mix up between the text and a figure about tumbling boosters.

What bothered me
It felt like every few pages was an add for RockSim, or the Fix-It epoxy clay that Apogee sells. I have no problem with the chapter at the end about RockSim, or a comment that epoxy clay would be a good tool for the application being discussed. At many points the link to the Apogee website is included in the text. I understand that Mr. Van Milligan is in charge of a small company and getting people to buy his products is important but I felt if I'm gonna pay +$40 for a reference book after shipping I don't want to feel that RockSim is the only tool for designing rockets and Fix-It epoxy clay is the builders best tool, and I should buy it now. An appendix with the links and product information with much less direct reference in the text would have made me happy. No other reference book I won pushes products so hard!
The Chapters on Scale and Helicopter recovery seemed very short, and missing a lot of detail alluded to in the photos and figures especially after the depth of the glider and parachute sections (both of the later two chapters were very well done and informative)
Chapter 2 (Stability) and 3 (Aerodynamics) felt misplaced in the book. Like I said above I liked these chapters but they get very deep mathematically and could scare many who pick the book up off. These chapters should be split in to basic and advanced chapters with the advanced aerodynamics and dynamic stability presented at the end of the book. Also the equation numbering system suddenly appears part way through and then vanishes equally mysteriously.
Over reliance on RockSim and computers in general. A big issue in our science, technology, engineering, and math education processes as a whole country right now. Some of the "golden age of sci-fi rockets" were done with out computers. In fact the ability to easily model them really just came about in RS 9.

Closing Thoughts
Do the negatives I point out make buying the book a deal breaker? I'd still buy it, like I said at the beginning I learned more than a few things from this book, so it is worth owning. I'd like to see a little more of the math that is left to the reader and RockSim in the text, but that is the engineer in me.

Bottom Line
I would recommend Model Rocket Design and Construction 3rd Edition to a friend but with the caveat of you'll feel like you'll need to buy the newest version of RockSim when you finish reading it.
I think you are spot on in you evaluation of this book. Having a liberal arts background myself all the math did make me scratch my head :) It does contain a plethora of information that is very usefull as well. I want to start scratch building so I can see this book being a great referance :)